The 7 Habits of the Highly Effective…Author

Posted in SoNaR Adventure Books at 4:19 pm by Aaron Tate, M.A.

Living up to its slogan, Bromley East Charter School (BECS) in Brighton, Colorado is “Soaring to New Heights.”  For the past few years, our school has transformed and improved in ways unimaginable.  Specifically, one of the major shifts in our school’s culture has been with the inclusion of The Leader In Me by Steven R. Covey into, and throughout, our building.  Based directly on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (also by the same author), the philosophies behind The Leader In Me are intended to produce leaders of all ages that are accountable, responsible, and reliable, and that make a positive impact in our world.  And, if this year is any indication, our institution will continue to flourish under this new philosophy.

According to Steven R. Covey, the principles outlined in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are “universal.”  That is, not only can they be applicable to school settings such as BECS, but they can also potentially be applicable to any facet of a person’s life.  Whether they are applied professionally, personally, academically, or theologically, the 7 Habits can guide the way a person (or an institution) operates, thinks, and acts.  As a veteran educator at my school, I can attest to the power the 7 Habits have had on our students, our staff members, and our institution as a whole.  In addition, there’s no doubt in my mind that the 7 Habits have also had a profound impact on my life as well, both personally and professionally.  As a result, I see no reason to disagree with Covey’s assertion that the habits can be “universal.”

That being said, I’d like to put the 7 Habits to the test.  If they truly are as universal as Covey contends, shouldn’t they also be able to positively impact authors and the writing process?  If the answer to this is yes, then what might the impact from each be?  The only way to find out is to individually put each habit under the “microscope” to see how it can positively guide an author to success.  So, without further ado, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as applied by successful authors:

1.)   Be Proactive (internal):  Successful authors proactively take charge of their writing.  If an author has a good idea but never chooses to proactively put it down on paper, it never becomes something of substance or reality.  Without proactivity, everything else ceases to exist, so get out there and write! 

2.)   Begin With The End In Mind (internal):  Successful authors have goals in mind that they strive to achieve.  Some authors choose to write the end of a story first, literally “beginning with the end in mind.”  Others choose to outline a story in its entirety before ever writing a single word (I personally fall into this category), again “beginning with the end in mind.”  And others simply just get straight to their first draft, waiting to see where their story will end up.  Regardless of the methods used, all successful authors begin with the end in mind: to ultimately create a well-written piece of literature that others will want to read some day.

3.)   Put First Things First (internal):  Successful authors find any way possible to make writing a priority.  The only way a story will get written is if it isn’t constantly being put on life’s back burner.  Television, family commitments, schedules, chores, careers, errands, kids…the list of possible distractions to writing are too numerous to count.  Somehow, some way, successful authors find a way to put first things first and consistently make writing a priority (if even only a paragraph at a time).   

4.)   Think Win-Win (interpersonal):  Successful authors make “win-win” decisions that are in the best interest of all parties (agents, editors, illustrators, publishers, and readers) involved.  Focusing on the big picture and what is truly best for all involved, successful authors never make writing or publishing decisions that can be interpreted as short-sighted or selfish (for example, ignoring an editor’s suggestions for a rewrite simply because the author has already written and rewritten the story countless times).  Thinking win-win creates situations that are beneficial for everybody, not just for the author.

5.)   Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood (interpersonal):  Successful authors work cooperatively with all parties mentioned above, always first seeking to completely understand the viewpoints of others before reacting and responding with their own.  Having receptive ears and an open mind can only foster trusting, mutually respectful relationships with professionals in the business, and this can only lead to great things down the road.

6.)  Synergize (interpersonal):  Successful authors work synergistically with agents, editors, illustrators, and publishers to create stories that are far better than they would have been if the author chose to work on them alone.  When great minds in the publishing business work together in true synergy, great ideas and great books are produced (the old saying “two heads are better than one” comes to mind).  Or, to put it another way, 1 + 1 = 2, but with synergy, 1 + 1 = ∞.  Which do you believe leads to more success?

7.)   Sharpen The Saw:  Successful authors never forget to sharpen their mental and physical “saws” in between writing sessions.  Just like a saw needs to be sharpened from time to time to remain effective, so do we.  Exercising, reading, drawing, painting, cooking, resting, taking walks, relaxing: whatever authors can do to regenerate their mental and physical selves, they should do.  That way, when they return to their craft, their minds and bodies are renewed, thereby creating an ideal environment for more successful writing.

Given the above, it appears that The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People truly are universal.  If they are taken seriously and followed consistently, the habits can lead anyone…authors included…to success.  Based on today’s reflection, not only will I continue to incorporate the habits into my personal and professional lives, but I will also strive to apply them to my writing life as well.  After all, if I’ve found so much success with the habits already as it is, why would I not want to apply them when I’m also wearing my author hat?  I can’t think of any reasons, can you?

“There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.”

~ Beverly Sills